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e-Health

Find Quality Resources

How do I know if I can trust the information I find online? How do I know if an eHealth tool is right for me or for my family?

With thousands of web pages, online services, and apps related to health, it can be hard to find high quality, trusted, relevant resources to meet your needs and the needs of your family.

In some cases you can get trustworthy recommendations from doctors and nurses, from other experts, or from consumer organizations. But when doing your own research, it’s in your best interest to look at resources carefully, particularly before making a purchase or making a decision about a health condition.

Here are some questions to consider while you decide whether or not a given tool or resource is right for you.

Is it up-to-date?

Generally, web pages will indicate when they were last updated, and apps will indicate when the latest version was released. But even without exact information, you can often make educated guesses about whether or not a resource is up-to-date by looking at the material. For example, if an article about a health condition mentions research from the last five years, it’s probably more up-to-date than an article that only mentions research from twenty years ago. But keep in mind that not everything needs to be updated frequently. For example, the science of basic care of cuts and bruises doesn’t change much from year to year, or even decade to decade.

Whose name is on it and who provides it?

Some resources are sponsored or sold by private companies. Others are sold or provided free-of-charge by government offices, non-profit organizations, or educational institutions. One type of sponsorship is not necessarily better than another. But keep in mind that the sponsor of a resource may have an interest or agenda different from your own.

Is the information accurate?

While medicine is based on science, some health information on the web and provided through apps may be biased. Consider sources carefully, particularly when they guide you towards specific treatment options or towards a specific product.

For apps and devices, do they work as advertised?

More than ever before, people have access to a mix of product reviews written by professionals and by individuals like themselves. Try to find unbiased sources of reviews and read them carefully to learn more about whether or not a product performs as promised, and whether or not it will address the specific needs you have. Also, look for endorsements by professional organizations like medical associations, or certifications by government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration.

Are the tools or resources easily usable?

On a web site, is it easy to search for the information you need? In an app, is it easy for you to understand how it works and how to use it? If you have a disability, does the resource include accessibility features or work with assistive software?

Does it work with other tools and resources?

For example, does a device give you choices about what to do with the data it collects, or are you limited to seeing it on the device itself, or just the product’s web site? Does a web site that tracks information for you offer ways to connect that information to other resources either automatically or through options to export your information?

Is it secure? Does it protect your privacy?

Any resource that collects personal health information about you or your family can expose you to potential risks. When evaluating such tools, look for privacy and security policies that protect your data and ensure that no one can access your information without your explicit permission. (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) offers a model privacy policy for companies offering personal health records.)

Last updated: Friday, January 18, 2013